On second thought: Louisiana GOP drops abortion-homicide bill

A belatedly wise decision, albeit a bit too late to undo the momentary political damage done. After making national news with their attempt to apply homicide charges to women who get abortions, Republican legislators in Louisiana gutted that provision from a new bill pushed in the wake of the leaked draft Supreme Court opinion in Dobbs.

In fact, the entire bill might now be dead, as dead as it was unnecessary:

Louisiana Republicans voted Thursday night to gut a highly controversial law that would have classified abortion as homicide and allowed prosecutors to criminally charge women who undergo the procedure.

The measure attracted national attention when it passed out of committee last Wednesday with a 7-to-2 vote, less than 48 hours after the leak of a draft opinion that showed the Supreme Court is potentially poised to overturn Roe v. Wade. …

Lawmakers voted Thursday to pass an amendment that removed the most contentious sections of the bill, including language that granted a fetus equal protections “from the moment of fertilization,” which could have restricted emergency contraception and in vitro fertilization, as well as the provisions that would have punished people seeking abortions.

The amendment “does not apply any criminal penalties to the pregnant female,” said state Rep. Alan Seabaugh (R), who brought the amendment to the floor after voting for the original version of the bill in committee. “Louisiana law has always been about protecting the babies and protecting the women.”

As one might expect, this started a heated debate over whether Republicans could truly call themselves pro-life and not want to prosecute women for murder. In fact, the bill’s sponsor grew so offended by the lack of resolve on this point that he announced he would withdraw the bill altogether in a fit of pique.

So would that leave abortion legal in Louisiana if Roe gets overturned? Nope:

During debate, Seabaugh argued that McCormick’s bill was unnecessary, since Louisiana already has a “trigger law” that will outlaw abortions if Roe is overturned.

So why have this fight at all — especially now? It’s almost as if some people in both parties can’t wait to overplay their hands and double down on performative stunts in the short time that’s left to indulge them. If Louisiana already has a trigger law in place banning all abortions, then no further action is necessary — at least until Louisiana voters decide how they feel about it after the Supreme Court throws out Roe and Casey, assuming that will be the result in Dobbs.

Chuck Schumer made the same mistake in forcing his caucus to walk the plank on abortion absolutism this week, of course. However, Republicans face a much different media environment and should be cognizant of that when plotting political strategy. Schumer can push a bill that would federalize abortions, gut religious and conscience exemptions, prevent states from regulating abortion clinics at all, and legalize abortion right up to the moment of birth … and the national media will describe it as “a codification of Roe.” One Republican state legislator can propose charging women with homicide, and the national media will report it as the national GOP’s plot to enslave women across the country.

The best strategy right now is to wait to see what Democrats will do in a post-Roe world, especially in states where abortion would already become immediately illegal. Schumer’s already shown a willingness to overreach, so has Joe Biden, and so have several governors. Even in Louisiana, the change in legal environment should put most of the pressure on the supposedly pro-life Democratic governor John Bel Edwards, and would if Republicans let that be the story until the midterms. Having stupid internecine food fights about pro-life authenticity right now by proposing radical and unnecessary legislation is about the dumbest possible way to move forward. Let’s hope everyone learned that lesson from Louisiana.

Update: I wrote “conception” where I meant “birth,” and have fixed it … very belatedly. Big thanks to reader John Gennett for pointing out the error.